School is out, the sun is shining, and it’s summer vacation time in July. Families are packing up for road trips, and some might be heeding travel expert Samantha Brown’s advice, “If it’s summer and everyone’s going to the beach, head to a city and enjoy all their free events such as outdoor concerts.” Cities around the U.S. and Canada combine summer festivals with lots to do outdoors. South Dakota is a family road trip favorite, and for those who crave a beach vacation, we suggest the sandy shores of Maryland, California, and Rhode Island. Alaska’s long days and warm temperatures make it a great July destination, whether for a cruise or a land-based vacation. If a European trip is on your wishlist, consider Croatia, where more than a thousand miles of coastline, history, culture, and summer celebrations await. Here are 11 of the best places to travel in July.
A visit to this eastern Canadian province is the closest you’ll get to France without leaving North America. You’ll hear the French language, enjoy the cuisine and culture, and explore history, architecture, and outdoor adventure. Plus, summer is festival time, and from July 6-16, Québec City, the province’s capital, will host Festival d’été Québec, with major musical performers. Visitors can head to Gaspésie National Park for hiking, kayaking, and fishing or try to spot 13 different species of whales along the Whale Route. A multisensory nighttime experience set aboard a chairlift will debut at Le Massif de Charlevoix this June. For an all-inclusive experience, Club Med Québec offers views of the St. Lawrence River and surrounding mountains, guided hiking and mountain biking, and supervised activities for kids. In Québec City, stay at the boutique Auberge Saint-Antoine, or plan a lake vacation at Manoir Hovey, set on 30 wooded acres with an expansive new spa.
If you’re looking for a classic seaside resort town, Ocean City might be the place for your summer vacation. Set on the Atlantic with a ten-mile public beach, classic wooden boardwalk, arcades, and restaurants, Ocean City is a perfect family destination. Trimper Rides features a Ferris wheel, carousel, and bumper cars for old-fashioned fun. Nearby, Assateague Island National Seashore offers hiking trails, camping, kayaking, and wild horse spotting. About 85 miles northwest, St. Michaels is a quaint harbor town with homes that date back to the mid-1600s. Visitors can take a self-guided walking tour or a scenic cruise to get acquainted with the town. Stay at the boutique waterfront Inn at Perry Cabin, set on 26 acres along the Miles River, for sailing, golf, tennis, a spa, and locally caught Chesapeake Bay seafood at Stars.
The central Oregon city of Bend, located between the Cascade Mountains and the high desert, is a summer destination offering hiking, fishing, boating, rock climbing, and floating down the Deschutes River. The Bend Summer Festival, July 7-9, features fine art, live music, food, cocktails, retail shops, a family play zone, and more. 30 breweries line the Bend Ale Trail, and you’ll also find cider, wine, spirits, kombucha, and restaurants. Mt. Bachelor, a winter skiing favorite, offers rock climbing, mountain biking, and whitewater rafting in summer. Lodging in the Bend area ranges from campgrounds and RV parks to hotels and resorts. At Juniper Preserve, guests can stay at the Lodge or choose a vacation rental with up to four bedrooms. Two golf courses, a spa, wellness activities, and dining are among the amenities at Juniper.
Croatia‘s coastline along the Adriatic is more than 1,100 miles long with over 1,200 islands. The island of Hvar is a popular destination for its beaches, wineries, lavender fields, culture, and history. The Lavender Festival, July 14-15, brings traditional music, dancing, and lavender-based delicacies. The five-star Palace Elisabeth and newly renovated Beach Bay Hvar will be joined by several new hotels in 2023, including Villa Porta Maestra, built on the foundations of a Roman villa. About 120 miles south along the coast, just past Dubrovnik, is Cavtat, a unique town with a palm-lined waterfront promenade, outdoor cafes, and more than five miles of beaches. Hotel Supetar Cavtat, in the town’s historic center, features stylish rooms and a restaurant serving seasonal Mediterranean fare. On the Istrian Peninsula in the northwest, Meneghetti Wine Hotel & Winery, a 40-room Relais & Châteaux property, is surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, with a spa, pool, and restaurant serving traditional Istrian cuisine.
Ohio’s capital is located in the central part of the state at the junction of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. July is a festive month in Columbus, starting with the annual Red, White & BOOM Independence Day street fair, parade, and fireworks on July 3. The Columbus Book Festival will celebrate the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s 150th anniversary with author talks, book signings, and entertainment on July 15-16. From July 21-23, the annual Jazz & Rib Fest will feature the finest in music and barbecue. Admission is free, and the festival is located along the Scioto Mile downtown riverfront. There’s plenty to do in dog-friendly Columbus, with parks, hiking and biking trails, and The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, one of the country’s most renowned zoos. Events at the zoo include Zoombezi Bay Christmas in July, complete with Santa and his elves, from July 21-28. Stay at the new Junto Hotel, the first independent lifestyle hotel in Columbus.
Buffalo, New York
Located at the western end of the state on Lake Erie and the Niagara River, Buffalo offers July temperatures in the high 70s and lots to do. The Taste of Buffalo (July 8-9) celebrates its 40th year with entertainment, food, wine, and more at a variety of downtown venues. While we’re on the subject of food, you can find your favorite version of the Buffalo specialty on the Wing Trail, but did you know that Buffalo has a unique pizza style too? Once you’ve experienced the city’s cuisine, be one of the first to visit the newly reopened Buffalo AKG Museum, housing modern and contemporary art. Enjoy the summer weather on Buffalo’s waterfront or see Niagara Falls, just 20 minutes away. Places to stay include The Richardson Hotel, set on the National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmstead campus, built by famed landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmsted (who designed Central Park) and architect Henry Hobson Richardson.
Asheville, North Carolina
An hour from Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Asheville is an ideal family destination in summer. At Asheville Treetops Adventure Park, you can ride mountain bikes or zipline through the trees, and there’s KidZip, a zipline adventure designed for kids under 10. At the WNC Nature Center, see the wildlife of the Southern Appalachian Mountains and learn about each of the 60 animal species that live there. Baseball fans will enjoy a game at McCormick Field with the Asheville Tourists, a Minor League team affiliated with the Houston Astros. In Pisgah National Forest, the Sliding Rock natural water slide is great fun for all ages. A tour of the Biltmore Estate is a must during a visit to Asheville, and there’s a special audio guide for kids, narrated by Cedric, the Vanderbilts’ Saint Bernard pup. The historic Omni Grove Park Inn features stunning mountain views, an expansive subterranean spa with two waterfall pools, a Donald Ross-designed golf course, and a variety of dining and cocktail venues. The Foundry Hotel, set in a former steel foundry, is a luxury boutique option downtown.
San Diego, California
San Diego is a terrific July vacation because of the perfect beach weather and a variety of outdoor activities. Coronado Island’s Independence Day activities include a Navy skydiving display, parades, and fireworks. Summer family activities at the Hotel del Coronado include beach movies, surf school, bonfires, and Ocean Explorers kids programs. Shore House at The Del offers kitchen-equipped homes, while the recently remodeled beachfront Beach Village rooms are large alternatives. The Rady Shell features summer concerts as well as a unique July 4 celebration. Legoland in adjacent Carlsbad is a miniature San Diego composed of over five million Lego bricks. In July, San Diego hosts ComicCon (July 20-23) and Del Mar has thoroughbred horse racing beginning July 21. San Diego has a variety of lodging alternatives, including a new Margaritaville in the Gaslamp Quarter, Town & Country in Mission Valley, and several dog-friendly options for the whole family.
Every season in Alaska has something to offer, and July’s warm weather and long days make it a great time to visit. Alaska is the largest state, larger than Texas, California, and Montana combined, so there’s a lot of ground to cover — and a few ways to do it. Summer cruises are popular, and several lines have itineraries including Holland America Line, Ponant, Regent Seven Seas, American Queen, and Disney Cruise Line. In Eagle River, near Anchorage, the annual Bear Paw Festival will take place July 12-16 featuring music, food, competitions, carnival rides, and more. Fishing enthusiasts will enjoy Salmon Falls Resort in Ketchikan, a 90-minute flight from Seattle, where guided fishing excursions and adventure activities fill the days. The Alaska Railroad, famed for glass-domed rail cars, offers convenient scenic day trips and multi-day packages with overnight stays and activities like rafting, wildlife viewing, hiking, and more. The railroad is one of the best ways to get to Denali National Park, where a variety of bus tours are available in summer.
Visits to Mount Rushmore National Memorial and Badlands National Park make for a classic family road trip. Be sure to stop at Wall Drug, the famed roadside destination. The Crazy Horse Memorial features a museum, restaurant, and special events in addition to the massive carving in the mountain. Visit the gold rush town of Deadwood in the Black Hills National Forest and explore Custer State Park to see bison, antelope, elk, mountain goats, and donkeys. Family-friendly activities throughout the state include visiting the Great Plains Zoo and Butterfly House & Aquarium in Sioux Falls, exploring Jewel Cave and Wind Cave National Park on guided cave tours, and panning for gold in the Black Mountains. Camping and glamping sites are perfect for travelers who want to spend a few nights sleeping under the stars.
The smallest state is gorgeous in summer thanks to nearly 400 miles of coastline. The town of Westerly on Rhode Island’s southernmost tip is known for beaches, concerts, boating, and outdoor activities. This year, Bemelmans Gallery at the Ocean House celebrates the work of author and illustrator Ludwig Bemelman, creator of the Madeline series. Art is part of the experience at the five-star resort, and self-guided tours of the expansive collection are available for guests. In Providence, the annual WaterFire events illuminate three rivers downtown with more than 80 sparkling bonfires. Stay at the luxury boutique hotel The Beatrice, The Graduate Providence, or the Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel. In Newport, enjoy seaside views and Gilded Age mansions, including the iconic Vanderbilt mansion, The Breakers, and stay at the elegant Chanler at Cliff Walk.